Traveler’s Block

Traveler’s Block

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

Today I have nothing.

I have written about packing and not packing, carry on luggage, check in luggage, travel clothes, travel companions,  souvenirs, my bracelet collection, my Starbucks collection, my good luck charms, LA – where I live, Manhattan and Brooklyn where I am from, places I love, places I hate, my mother, my dog, people who have died, animals that have been killed, airports, airplanes, stewardesses, airport security, things I’ve learned from traveling and not traveling, hotel rooms and things Ive left behind in them, travel addiction, people who think they are black, superstitions, proverbs and quotes from around the world, movies, books, children’s books and songs that have inspired me to travel, food, restaurants, turkey burgers, acting like a tourist, not acting like a tourist, tourist traps, tourist attractions, holidays, traveling alone,eating alone, random photos, being a godmother, travel etiquette, third world countries, countries that have changed names, countries not to travel to, misspelled countries, auto-correct, photography, art, urban art, music, world affairs terrorists and should you blame your parents if you are one,  philosophy, spirituality, religion, prejudice, meditation, things to say and not say to a world traveler, places I haven’t been to, bucket lists, top ten everything, travel problems, imaginary places, movie locations, trip planning, weddings, World Cup, Olympics, first world problems, blogging, Nellie Bly, touching strangers, things i like, things I dislike, the 100th monkey, coffee, sunrises, how to avoid the paparazzi, travel tv shows and people in the world.

I don’t know why they call it writer’s block. I have idea block. I could start reblogging pieces, post other writers, post more instagram photos, read more books and think about writing. I could hope that this is only a temporary setback, go out and do something and then write about it – like move to Spain, go to a wedding in Africa or perhaps the new Broad Museum in LA.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Advertisements

Eating Out Alone When Traveling Or How I Conquered Solomangarephobia

Eating Out Alone When Traveling Or How I Conquered Solomangarephobia

A smiling face is half the meal. —- Latvian proverb

I am the wrong person to be writing this blog. I knew one day I would have to write it and I’ve been dreading it. Eating alone in a restaurant in public terrifies me. Is it a vestige of high school cafeteria days? Is it that strangers will think I have no friends and that no one loves me? Is it the pitying looks from waiters, hostesses and bartenders? There is actually a name for the fear of eating alone in public. It is Solomangarephobia and I have it.

I enjoy being by myself sometimes and I, like many people, learned that while traveling. I get to do what I want when I want to do it. I like museums, galleries, lying on the beach, flying somewhere, touring, shopping, working out, getting a coffee and walking my dog by myself. I can go to the movies and theatre alone with no problem.

It is only my own destructive thoughts that ruin the dining experience. I assume that I know what everyone else is thinking. Why do I have to think that I am pathetic and everyone is staring at me? Why do I jump into the self-conscious state of mind?

What if I was eating alone because I wanted to? Maybe I just wanted to relax or read. Perhaps my friends and family wanted to eat later and I was hungry now. Maybe I was craving sushi and no one else wanted it.

Eating with other people isn’t always so much fun.  I have dined with people and not had a good time. We are having an argument or I’m feeling depressed or bored by the conversation.  Perhaps I talked too much or said the wrong thing. Did I just say something stupid? Did they say something really hurtful or embarrassing about me or caused a scene at the table because they were brought the wrong thing? There are many times when I am out with people and after ten minutes, I wish I was home reading a good book. Once in a while even eating alone would have been preferable.

I avoid eating out alone as much as possible. I book hotels that have spas and gyms and make appointments at night. I stay out all day and have an early dinner in a café. I have a big lunch and just grab fruit, bread and cheese for dinner. I go to night markets and malls and grab something there while shopping. Of course there is always room service.

But I am a foodie so I love to try food in foreign countries. I have had  to go into a restaurant alone. Sushi bars, counters, bars or communal tables are good for people alone. I bring something to read. It feels better for me to look busy. I can’t check my phone because I turn off my emails when traveling to save some money. Reading has saved a lot of people from loneliness and sometimes you get caught up in a good book and you forget where you are. I have my notebook with me so I usually start writing a blog when I am there.

The first time I dined in a nice restaurant alone for dinner, I was at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I had walked up and down the main street of Port Douglas for a very long time looking for a place where I would feel the least uncomfortable.  I was beyond starving and finally decided to go for the one that looked like it had the best food and ambience.  I immediately told the waitress it was my first time eating dinner alone in a restaurant. She had just moved from London and had eaten out alone a lot. I mentioned that I wrote a travel blog. She brought the owner over and he started chatting and bringing me all kinds of food to try. The people at the next table got involved in my food tasting. Australians are overly friendly which is so great most of the time. The next night we all went out for pizza at the owner’s recommendation (including the waitress). We are all fb friends now. It doesn’t always happen like that but it was good start.

I’m not naturally outgoing  but I do meet people  when I’m traveling.  When I don’t, what I tell myself now is -“face it, you are in a fabulous foreign country and you are eating amazing food alone. Don’t attach a story to it. The truth is everyone is much too caught up in themselves to really pay attention to you. It isn’t fun or easy eating alone but do it or stay home” Sometimes you have to be tough on yourself.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Why Don’t We Eat More Cambodian Food?

Why Don’t We Eat More Cambodian Food?

“Now that you are eating the rice, you can enjoy the taste of the food.” Cambodian waiter in Siem Reap to me.

I don’t like rice but I am grateful to rice for keeping people from starving. It is the most widely consumed food in the world especially in Asia. In Asian countries it is weird if you don’t eat rice. So this trip I managed to not eat rice in Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Viet Nam but in Cambodia everyone eats rice. If they see that your plate has no rice, they put rice on it. In many restaurants, rice is free or included. They did not understand the no rice thing. Having had so much starvation for so many years, it is odd for them to see people jogging to lose weight or not eat rice. I needed to eat some rice in Cambodia to understand the food. I felt a little of that first world privilege that I had a choice not to eat it.

IMG_2687

Khmer food takes influences from a variety of countries. Cambodia was a French colony for many years and also has many Chinese immigrants, so both French and Chinese foods are widely found. Thailand is nearby and influences the flavors as well. as well. Common ingredients are rice and sticky rice, fish sauce, palm sugar, lime, garlic, chilies, coconut milk, lemon grass,, kaffir lime and shallots.

IMG_2698

I have never eaten Cambodian food before so I can’t judge anything other than that I thought it was fresh and delicious. The flavors are strong, clean and not too spicy for me. (Cambodian curry)

IMG_2691

Hunger is a legacy that lives on in Cambodian food and everything is edible. This is not my first fried bug country but there are a lot of them here. Platters of fried tarantulas and spiders are common in the market.

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 2.44.58 PM

They told me the red ants that were biting my leg on the hammock were delicious when cooked with beef and they were right.

IMG_2752

My new favorite Cambodian dish is  Amok, a popular Khmer dish. Amok is  a national dish, made from fish, coconut milk and curry paste and cooked in banana leaves.   I had it with fish and chicken.(fish amok and morning glory)

IMG_2689

I love trying new restaurants and my new favorite restaurant is in Siem Reap Cambodia.  It is Batchum Khmer Kitchen restaurant (http://batchumkhmerkitchen.com) I ate there twice. The food is fresh  and organic (as most food is in agricultural communities).

IMG_2683

It is located in a quiet part of the Angor Archaological Park overlooking tropical gardens and rice paddies. (watching the quick tropical rainstorm while eating)

IMG_2763

The second day I went for a coffee and did not plan on staying for lunch but it is so beautiful and relaxing there  and the food is so delicious and the staff is so friendly that we ended up staying.

IMG_2755

In the Khmer language the word for rice and food are the same. In Cambodia, they go together.

Fly safe,

JAZ